National Financial Partners Buys Fusion Advisor Network

Consulting network to advisors will become part of BD NFP Advisor Services Group; founder Silverman will remain

National Financial Partners Corp. (NFP) announced Tuesday that it had acquired Fusion Advisor Network, the network of advisors who receive and share practice management and business consulting best practices under the leadership of founder Stuart Silverman and noted industry guru Philip Palaveev, Fusion's president.

Silverman said that he, Palaveev and marketing director Abby Salameh have been meeting with Fusion’s 240 affiliated advisors to explain the how and why of the transaction, which was effective July 2. “We haven’t gotten a negative comment yet” from those advisors, Silverman said in a Thursday interview, predicting that those advisors will see a number of “additional benefits from this union” and that the transition should be smooth, with “no repapering.”

While Silverman will become chairman emeritus, he dismissed the notion that he will be leaving anytime soon. “It’s not just through the transition” that he will remain, he pledged, noting that while the transaction “has taken off some of the financial pressure,” Fusion is “not just a business for me; I have relationships with these people.” 

NFP Advisor Services Group President James Poer.In the same interview, James Poer (left), president of NFP Advisor Services Group, said the genesis of the acquisition came from NFP’s “long history with Fusion; we’ve had shared success and we understand the talents and benefits that each party brings to the equation.”

In Investment Advisor's 2012 annual independent broker-dealer directory, NFP Advisor Services was ranked 10th in annual revenue, at $369.2 million in 2011; it was ranked seventh in average annual gross production per advisor, at $274,483; and as of year-end 2011 it had 1,329 registered reps, putting it in 21st place among all the indpendent BDs in the directory.

Fusion’s advisors have used NFP Advisor Solutions Group as its broker-dealer for nearly 10 years. But while the “intellectual capital” of Fusion around practice management consulting has heretofore been available “to only 20%” of NFP’s representatives, its expertise will now “be integrated deeper into our platform,” Poer said, including its technology workstation, AdvisorComplete. In-person consulting will also be available to reps.

Poer declined to reveal the terms of the acquisition.

He did say, however, that the deal will constitute “a big deal on recruiting,” since it will attract higher-end advisors who can benefit from the business-building expertise of Fusion. Existing Fusion advisors, he said, will also be brought into the “leadership process of the organization.” 

Poer said that an “advisor who works well with us wants to build a business, not a practice; wants to take advantage of our technology and scale.” He characterized NFP Advisors Group’s model as “not a WalMart approach, but a high-end boutique” model for advisors who are interested in “intentional growth.” 

The release announcing the acquisition said that in 2013, NFP expects that NFP Advisor Services “adjusted EBITDA margins will improve in the range of 75 to 100 basis points,” which Poer said will come from “efficiencies and opportunities from a margin standpoint.”

He also stressed that in discussing Fusion, “let’s not use past tense; we’re big fans and it’s not going away.” Poer declined to reveal the purchase price. Silverman echoed Poer’s statement, saying that what will change is “that we’re not just a client of the broker-dealer, but partners.” 

Palaveev, the former Moss Adams consultant, is a longtime contributor to Investment Advisor and AdvisorOne, notably as the analyst for several years, with colleague Jonathan McQuade, on the annual Top Wealth Managers ranking. He most recently was quoted in Research magazine's June cover story on Exploring Independence.

In an interview last year with AdvisorOne, Poer spoke about his plans to remake the former NFP Securities in both technology and in “talent, process and service.” In the July issue of Investment Advisor, he wrote about how advisors can maximize the value of their practices.

Silverman was extensively quoted in a recent Investment Advisor feature article by Olivia Mellan on how Fusion helps its advisors with their quality of life, notably through its Thrive program.

Parent company National Financial Partners Corp., founded by CEO Jessica Bibliowicz, was one of the first rollup firms to make a splash in the advisor market and went so far as to go public in 2003. Bibliowicz has been named multiple times to the IA 25 list of the most influential people in and around the advisor industry, and to AdvisorOne’s Top Women in Wealth.

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